Ikea Group, the world’s biggest furniture retailer, became the latest company to be drawn into Europe’s horse-meat scandal after it stopped serving and selling Swedish meatballs across most of Europe.
The company widened an earlier stop on total meatball sales which was limited to France and Sweden. Now “the sales stop concerns meatballs manufactured by one supplier in Sweden who supplies meatballs to all European countries,” except Norway, Russia and Switzerland, as they “have alternative suppliers,” Ikea said in a statement.
The decision followed the discovery by authorities in the Czech Republic of traces of horse meat in the product.
The horse-meat scandal that started in Ireland in mid-January has spread across Europe as retailers withdraw products such as frozen beef burgers, lasagnas and meat balls from the shelves. The European Union has ordered immediate testing across the region for equine DNA in beef products and the veterinary drug phenylbutazone in horse meat.
“The scandal has been a shock to the European food industry, which is coming to the end of the knee-jerk stage of the crisis” said Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital in Liverpool. “There may be a fundamental re-examination of supply chains by retailers and brand owners too.”
Ikea is now testing its meatballs again to validate the Czech findings and expects to have the results by the end of this week. The company serves the product in its restaurants and also sells them to take away.
According to Ikea’s U.K. website, a meal of 10 Swedish meatballs in the restaurant costs 3.89 pounds ($5.88). A portion of 15 sells for 4.50 pounds and 20 for 5.79 pounds.
Nestle SA, the world’s largest food company, said today it dropped Spanish supplier Servocar, after beef products were found to contain horse meat. That follows the Swiss company’s decision on Feb. 18 to withdraw beef ravioli and beef tortellini products and stop all deliveries of products with beef from H.J. Schypke, a subcontractor of Nestle supplier JBS Toledo NV.
“As we have seen from recent announcements by Ikea and Nestle, this is an issue right across the European supply network,” said U.K. environment minister Owen Paterson after a meeting of agriculture ministers in Brussels today. His Irish colleague Simon Coveney said the issue represented “fraud on a massive scale” and that criminal investigations are underway. Still, all policy makers reiterated that for now it was not a food safety issue.
In the U.K. two separate rounds of testing have so far found that the “overwhelming majority” of products tested contained no horse DNA, the Food Standards Agency said Feb. 22.